It feels to me that Baselworld – the once raven-haired, blue-eyed star quarterback/student body president/drama club lead of the world’s watch and jewelry trade fairs – has recently been reduced to the smelly kid in class who brings tuna for lunch and occasionally chews his erasers. In other words, it’s become quite unpopular. And yet, many of us have been convinced that if we want to be successful in this industry, we need to get to know it better; to find the good in it, even if others don’t necessarily agree. And that’s exactly what I set out to do when I signed up for my third ever visit to the fair.
The City, Itself
This year I made the decision to get into the city a day earlier than I usually do and it was the best travel choice I’ve made in the last three years. Basel – two days before press day – was quiet and snowcapped and genuinely lovely.
What many don’t realize is that Basel is the third most populous city in Switzerland (behind Zürich and Geneva) and is historically significant for a variety of reasons, including that the first ever museum that showcased art to the public – the Kunst – happens to be located there. A word of advice, however: make sure you pronounce the name of the museum correctly to the local cab drivers. If not, well, it can be quite offensive. Or so I’ve heard.
And while I agree with many of my colleagues that some of the city’s restaurants raise their prices significantly while the fair is in town, I don’t find the rates to be all that different than touristy restaurants in San Francisco or on the strip in Las Vegas (how’s that forty-dollar martini at The Wynn working out for ya?). I’ve succumbed to the fact that Basel is pricey, but it’s a price I’m willing to pay once per year to be able to walk away with the information I’m given. Maybe it’s naïve, but I’m also still at the “you have to spend money to make money” stage of my career.
But first, Let Me Take a Wristie
Think about this for a minute… if you’re one of the handful of people who can afford to get yourself to Basel or who works for a company that will either partially or fully pay for your journey, you’re a rare breed, and Baselworld – for all of its quirks – can be quite an extraordinary experience if you allow yourself to get past the show’s lackluster Wi-Fi and lack of places to sit.
One click on the #Baselworld2018 hashtag on Instagram will pull up nearly 50,000 posts, with likely 90% of those being wrist shots, or “wristies”, which means you are amongst the watch-loving elite, and that means solid, interesting conversations, wristwatch comparisons, and potential selfies with celebrities like KISS drummer Eric Singer or Instagram sensation Anish Bhatt – aka @watchanish – who is always happy to take one.
It’s Like Living in a Benetton Ad!
The diversity of Baselworld is truly one of the show’s greatest attributes. Think of it like a trip to the United Nations but slightly less stuffy and with a lot more champagne and much nicer suits. The conversations being had leading up to the turnstiles alone are enough to make you think you’ve mistakenly woken up at the foot of The Tower of Babel, but that’s also the beauty of the show and proof that the world can come together in peace and harmony if we could just find something to love as a people; and in the case of Baselworld, that something just happens to be the Grand Seiko Hi-Beat 36000.
Let’s Not Forget, “The Presence of Greatness”
I think the saddest part for me about some of the negativity I’ve read about Baselworld is that people out there are assuming what brands like Rolex and Patek Philippe want, or what they’re eventually going to do as it pertains to showing at the fair, and to be honest, I don’t believe anyone really knows. But as it stands right now, if you’re a retailer or a journalist or a collector, and you want to see the new releases as they come out from either of the aforementioned watch industry titans as well as many others, then finding a way to get yourself to Basel is what you’re going to have to do, at least, for now. If these brands aren’t complaining when they’re spending millions upon millions to be there, then why should we? They invite us out for dinners, let us hang out at their top-shelf-stacked bars inside of their beautifully-decorated booths and show us a grand ol’ time while showing us their brand-new timepieces (Pepsi GMT, anyone?), so who are we to say what they should do or what we would do if we were in their positions? I’m all for letting the big boys think for themselves, because after well over a hundred years of being in business, I’m fairly certain they know what they’re doing.
Come on… Admit it… There’s Nothing Like Les Trois Rois
You can go ahead and build Geneva up all you want, but there is just something about being in a bar where you can barely move, breathe, or hear yourself think with 350 of your closest international friends. For me, Les Trois Rois is like a family reunion; with a twenty-plus-year background in jewelry sales, marketing, and media, I know almost all of the American jewelry retailers and buyers personally. But that also means I can’t move three inches in one direction without being recognized (at 5’10”, I’m pretty easy to spot), and that’s usually when the hugs, stories, and drinks start flowing.
This year I surprisingly stuck to a “one drink at the Three Kings” rule for myself and it worked out beautifully. That rule allowed me to be at the bar long enough to buy Luc Pettavino a beer, have a brief conversation with collector Gary Getz about what happened when I tried to buy Luc Pettavino a beer, and network one end of the bar to the other before bidding my friends a fond “auf wiedersehen/au revoir”. Regardless, it’s moments like those had at Les Trois Rois that separate our industry from so many of the others. We love watches, sure, but we mostly like the camaraderie that comes along with our love for watches (um, hello, RedBar anyone?) which is why the social aspect of Baselworld is just as important as the business one.
In closing, I have no crystal ball, and I haven’t been doing this long enough to feel strongly enough one way or the other about whether or not Baselworld will be around in 2020, or 2030, or 2050. For now, what I do understand is that despite the cost, I come back from the fair knowing more than I did before I left for it, and as a writer who is learning as she goes, that – to me – is worth the price of admission.
For a year that started off with the inauguration of a p*ssy-grabbing, attention-seeking, twitter-obsessed nutjob, 2017 sure as heck turned out better than I expected from a professional standpoint. So without holding back, I’m going to reflect on all that made this year both great and less than stellar, while addressing a few things I’d like to clear up before 2018 knocks on my door.
The Ups, Chronologically
January 2017 started off brilliantly with an invite to my first ever Salon International de la Haute Horlogerie (SIHH) in Geneva. This came as a surprise to me, as well as to many others, since at the time I had only been writing about watches for ten months total. However, my first SIHH was an experience I’ll never forget, and with an invite to attend the 2018 edition it was clear to me that the Richemont brands were largely on board with what I’m doing as a watch writer, and where I’m headed in the future.
March’s Baselworld also proved to be successful, more so when compared to the edition I attended the year before where I pretty much had to bribe the brands with gold bullion in order to get an appointment. Not only was it easier to see watch companies (who thankfully recognized my name and face this year), but it also proved to be a great year for writing gigs, with several interviews happening during the show for various well-known and well-respected publications.
April was filled with speaking engagements at the American Gem Society Conclave in Hollywood, The Women’s Jewelry Association chapter in Chicago, and the Gold Conference at the City University of New York, where my colleagues Monica Stephenson, Peggy Jo Donahue, and I discussed Federal Trade Commission guidelines for disclosure in media; a topic that should be more important within the watch journalism community than it seemingly is. (Full disclosure, people: It’s not just the law, it’s federal law.)
Then along came May and June and an eighteen-day, all-expenses paid trip to Italy to appear in ads and commercials for Celebrity Cruises; something I’ve done with my life partner since 2014. See, writing about watches isn’t my only job, which I’m going to talk a little bit more about later when I get to the “rumors” part of this post.
July was exciting, as I was nominated again for a Women’s Jewelry Association Award for Excellence in the Media category, and while the award went to a different writer, the trip to New York gave me another opportunity to be around my friends and colleagues in the jewelry and watch worlds, as well as to co-host a successful “Whiskey-ish Breakfast” with my AGS Young Titleholder crew. Love you guys! Thanks for always having my back!
August sent me to Houston for Watchonista with Hublot to hang out and golf with Olympian Patrick Reed, and September sent me to Vicenza, Italy where I would experience the grandeur that was the Vicenzaoro Boutique Show and their newest addition to the show – the Not Ordinary Watches (N.O.W.) section, whose focus was on independent watch brands at reasonable price points.
October, however, is when it really started to hit me that what I do for living goes beyond just words on a screen, and that there are women out there who look to me for advice and guidance; a fact that I will never take for granted.
In the first week of October, I was invited to speak in Seattle at a WJA Chapter Event that directly addressed women’s issues, particularly sexual harassment in the jewelry and watch industries. As a sexual assault survivor, victim of sexual harassment, and two-time author of articles about sexual harassment and discrimination in the jewelry and watch industries, it was important for me to be able to be an ear for these women who were willing to open up and share their stories not only with me, but with others who had their own stories. On the day I spoke to the group, the Harvey Weinstein story ran in the New York Times. The timing for this discussion was fitting, and poignant, and needed, and I’ve decided to go even further with these discussions once 2018 rolls around thanks to the encouragement of my friend, jewelry designer Wendy Brandes.
November brought me into the big blue sky for a couple of important reasons: first, to fly with daredevil champion pilot Mike Goulian for a story about Alpina watches for Watchonista; and second, to take a sixteen-hour flight to Dubai as a guest of Ahmed Seddiqi and Sons for the amazingly phenomenal experience that was Dubai Watch Week.
December ended in the most spectacular way possible: driving and judging the Robb Report Cars of the Year for 2018 on a trip to South Florida set up by my wonderful friends at Provident Jewelry. Oh, and I also got to hang out with and pick the brain of the one and only Maximilian Büsser for a couple of days. No big deal, though. Just Max, Me, and an MB&F Legacy Machine on my wrist.
As mentioned, it was overall a pretty damned good year in my eyes, minus a few bumps, as will be mentioned below.
The Downs, Haphazardly
While 2017 had few downs, there were certainly moments where people showed their true colors, their deeper motivations, and the fact that the almighty dollar will often be enough to quiet something that should be a movement. “Money talks/bullshit walks” could have been the mantra for the year 2017, but still, I didn’t let that fact get the best of me.
One of the downs for me is knowing that there are seemingly respected and well-known watch brands out there who use/support/pay influencers to post about their watches without fully disclosing that the influencer has been compensated, and without making sure that the influencer states – in accordance with FTC guidelines – that said influencer/blogger/instagrammer has been paid either via money or product to endorse said brand. Maybe this is me being naïve. Maybe it’s me being in the “Joe Thompson mindset.” You know… the mindset that believes that journalism can’t be bought, and that without unbiased journalism this industry (and this country) will fast wind up in the shitter. But even with it being the downer it is, I’m still doing my best to stand steadfast in my decision to write editorially, and ethically, and to do so with heart, and in my own voice.
Another down for me was noticing just how often brand press releases are merely regurgitated then posted to what many believe to be legitimate news websites in order to be passed off unknowingly to the reader as “journalism.” Although, I guess it’s a down that allows me to stand out from the “copy/paste” crowd. So, I guess that could also be an up, yeah? An up for me, but a down for the act of having an original thought. Ah well.
And lastly, one of the downs brought to my attention was the pressure put on some of those in the watch community whom I have good relationships with by members of the Old Guard, with regard to said relationships. You know the Old Guard… every industry has them. They’re the group of folks who came before you, who feel that simply because they’ve been doing the job longer they’re better at it than you are, or know more than you do, or that they are entitled to opportunities and press trips and event invitations before you (heaven forbid they actually try to mentor you. Oh, heavens no! Why would they do THAT??) The Old Guard is sort of like the Mafia; not *really* all that relevant anymore, and yet people still fear them out of some sort of tradition and ritual. And this “down” wasn’t so much that it was a down for me, but rather a down for those in the industry who’ve had to be subjected to the drama and nonsense that the Old Guard bestowed upon them, because of their own insecurities. It’s sad really. Sad, and a little bit evil. But… the poor Old Guard never quite met the likes of me. The Old Guard has clearly never been to Philly.
Ah, the rumors. Yes, the rumors have certainly added to 2017 in an interesting and yet disheartening sort of way. The rumors have ranged all the way from writers claiming I’m trying to steal their jobs to those who’re saying I’m trying to screw my way into the watch industry. It’s so fun being me these days. So much fun having to look someone in the face and wonder whether or not they think I’m a legitimate writer or a vamp who’s trying to sleep her way into… um… well… into what exactly? I mean, if there’s an industry anyone would try to sleep their way into, would it really be watches? Have you seen watch people? No offense guys, but, beards really aren’t my thing. So let’s talk truths now.
Here’s the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth… unadulterated, uncensored, and unbiased. And if you can’t handle strong language, or a strong opinion, then I suggest you close your browser now.
Truth: I am a twenty-two-year veteran of the jewelry industry. Just over two years ago, when I decided to write about watches, it was because the only watch articles I found even vaguely interesting by writers based in the United States were ones written by men. Nothing made me laugh. Plenty made me think, but not in an emotional way. Everything was stoic, and exact. Things were written mechanically and largely for collectors or experts. Not much was written for the novice, let alone the female novice, and so I set forth to change that. I write for me and people like me. I write for buyers like me. I write for retailers who know me, who think like I do, and who trust my opinion. I write to entertain my reader, and to engage them through the story. I don’t write for the brands; I write for those who buy the brands. I write in my own voice, with my own words, and with my own thoughts. For those spreading the rumors, you should put down your drink, take your head out of your ass, and try that for a change.
Truth: I am a mother to two kids, ages seven and eleven; one girl, and one boy. To think that anyone who knows that fact would willingly try to destroy my reputation through untruths and deceit angers me to a level I’m not comfortable with. To think that my daughter still lives in a world where her worth will be determined by what people will believe about her sex life is astounding to me, and I’m embarrassed for those who would take part in such behavior. It’s shameful and disgusting, and karma is a bitch.
Truth: I have had my fair share of sex in my life, not that it’s anyone’s business, because let’s face it, how many men do you know in the watch or the jewelry industry who’ve f*cked or hit on everything with a pulse? Plenty, though I’ll refrain from naming any of them. But because they’re men, no one says a peep. No one blinks. Women are held to some ridiculous standard when it comes to the amount of sex they have or who they’ve had it with or when – and largely that standard is held up by other women. My husband is well aware of my sexual history (after all, he’s edited this here piece) and has neither judged me nor taken issue with it. And his is the only opinion that matters to me at the end of the day.
Truth: Don’t worry about what I’m doing. Worry about why you’re worried about what I’m doing. If you’re so petty as to tell blatant lies about someone whom you see as a threat, then you seriously need a f**king hobby. As for me, I’ll be over here raising my two bright, creative, and well-adjusted kids, cooking like an Iron Chef, modelling part-time for an internationally-known company that sends me all over the world (and pays me a shit-ton), speaking to and mentoring women who are trying to find their way in this industry, and writing about watches in an original, fun, and unique way that has gotten me noticed like you’ve never been noticed IN YOUR LIFE. So, at the end of the day, do yourself a favor and remember these tasty little morsels the next time you want to open your mouth about me:
I will outwrite you.
I will outsmart you.
I will out-dress you.
I will out-etiquette you.
And I will do so with a soufflé in one hand and a paycheck in the other, all while looking good in a pair of skinny jeans and high-heeled boots.
For all the brands, PR folks, journalists, retailers, and industry people who’ve helped make this year special for me, I thank you, and appreciate you, and I value our relationship. Let’s make the new year the most important, most ethical, and most successful yet.
Peace out, 2017. Nothin’ but love for ya. It’s been a thin slice of heaven, truth be told.
I travel. A lot. It’s part and parcel of my career as a watch and jewelry writer and speaker, and my family and I have accepted this as our new reality. But because I travel so much, dinners at home are all the more special. I make sure our family of four sits down to a home cooked meal every night that I’m not on the road; something that – while having grown up in a rough environment – my parents made sure we did no matter the circumstances surrounding us.
Last year around Christmastime, I came across these dinner table cards called “Table Topics.” Their purpose is to get families who sit down together at mealtime to talk about different things. Some of the cards will ask questions like, “Who was the worst teacher you ever had?” Or, “What are the next three countries you’d like to visit?” In our home, each family member takes turns as to who gets to pick a card and ask the question each night, and about three months ago, my son chose a card asking each of us the following question:
“What invitation would you love to receive?”
When it was my turn to answer, I pondered whether I should go with my extreme option (an invite to attend the royal wedding of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle when they eventually tie the knot), or one that – while still far-fetched in my mind – seemed a bit more reachable.
“I’d like to be invited to Dubai Watch Week.”
And on October 19th of this year, thanks to Ahmed Seddiqi & Sons (and a few watch folks who believe in the work I put forth), that invitation came in the form of an email, and that once seemingly far-fetched wish became my reality.
I left my home for the airport on November 14th with what I believed were the essentials for a trip to the UAE: two large suitcases (weighing over one-hundred pounds total) carrying eighteen (18!!!!!!) pairs of high heels, five floor-length gowns, and a sixteen-page dossier on UAE laws, dress code recommendations, cultural etiquette, and acceptable behavior, created by my rarely nervous yet heartwarmingly protective husband.
“You promised me you’d read the entire thing before you left. Did you?”
“Todd, I read it all. Front to back. I promise. I didn’t pack any of my mini-dresses or midriffs and I’ll watch my language. You have my word.”
To give you a little context, my better half sends me off on overseas trips about as regularly as he gets a haircut these days, and never has he blinked an eye when it comes to my safety, but he and I have not yet visited the Middle East, or Dubai, or even Asia together for that matter, and since he knows I’m from Philly and that I occasionally (full disclosure: regularly) like a good four-letter word alongside my single-malt scotch, he feared I might get myself in trouble for, well, basically just being myself.
“Babe, I’ll behave. These are watch people, remember. I’d worry more if I were heading to a jewelry convention there.”
Ahmed Seddiqi & Sons did the most wonderful job of hosting the journalists who were invited to attend this year’s fair. I was flown to Dallas in order to catch the direct flight from Dallas to Dubai via business class on Emirates Airlines. Once landed, a chauffeur-driven Emirates car picked me up from Dubai International Airport to take me to the Ritz Carlton at the DIFC – The Dubai International Finance Center – where I would enjoy a six-night stay. The fair was a five-minute walk (eight minutes in five-inch heels) from the hotel, which was located in The Gate Village. The daily brisk stroll made for a perfect way to burn off a few of that morning’s breakfast calories before a day of sitting down in classes, sessions, or seminars.
The important thing for everyone to realize about this fair is that three years ago, Ahmed Seddiqi & Sons founded Dubai Watch Week with the purpose of providing an intimate environment for collectors, brands, watchmakers, and members of the press to interact with one another and share the knowledge bestowed upon them throughout their personal watch journeys. This is not a money-maker for the company. They are not an exhibition group that was formed with the sole purpose of creating and managing trade shows. This is a multi-generational family business that started in the 1940’s with a single watch shop in Dubai’s Souk Bur, which has grown into a Swiss watch conglomerate that now operates close to two dozen watch boutiques. Dubai Watch Week is – in a way – a form of giving back to the community of watch collectors and enthusiasts who have been patrons of their business, while also allowing the watchmakers and brand representatives to speak directly to those most interested, usually through some form of education. The concept is both brilliant and refreshing, and I realized those facts before ever having stepped foot in the country.
November 16th was a day set aside for opening ceremonies and press previews, while the days of the 17th through the 20th were meticulously planned out, with the program being curated with an extreme amount of thought and care. Attendees were treated to watchmaking master classes taught by the likes of David Candaux, Vanessa Cellier, Adriano Toninelli, Issa Sulaiman, Antoine Preziuso, Florian Preziuso, and the legendary Kurt Klaus. Tiago Aires Sergio was on hand to teach engraving master classes and Jiyoun Han-Parrat with the Vanessa Lecci Atelier taught miniature painting as well as enameling master classes.
Regarding the layout of the fair itself, there were eleven numbered “halls” set up around the DIFC gate that included two watch halls (titled “Classic & Contemporary 1 & 2), the FHH exhibition, the GPHG exhibition, the Master Classes center, the Creative Hub (where brands often held their press conferences), the Horology Forum (where the seminars and panels took place), the Auction & Evaluation Room, the Virtual Reality exhibit, Citizen Kafe (an eatery), and Lounge 1010 (also, an eatery).
Two of the things that stood out for me personally at the fair were firstly, the presence of watch women in both physical form and as topics during the forums, and secondly, the presence of children and the importance placed on getting children involved and interested in horology at an early age; especially if we’re to raise the next generation of watchmakers. A few of my close friends know that I’m currently working on watch projects that directly relate to these points (which will be revealed at Baselworld), so to see this happening in a place like Dubai brought sheer joy to my heart.
I could spend the next one thousand words of this article rolling off the highlights of Dubai Watch Week or what I learned or took away from it all (because believe me, I learned and took away so much), but it’s getting pretty lengthy as it is, so I’ll simply mention some of my favorite personal moments below:
- Visiting Max’s M.A.D. Gallery in the city in which he and his family live (and meeting his wife and daughter, finally!).
- Watching Alexander Friedman and Suzanne Wong go toe-to-toe on women’s issues during a Horology Forum panel while still maintaining their friendship.
- Intermission shots even when there wasn’t an intermission.
- CHARRIS. ‘Nuff said.
- Getting to use two of the five floor-length gowns I packed.
- Learning how to properly pronounce Kristian Haagen’s name while simultaneously letting him know that his socks didn’t match. Again.
- Frequenting cigar bars alongside watch-wearing Italians, Arabs, Turks, the Swiss, and the French, and thinking that the whole world should be this happy.
- Breakfasts with my Watchonista squad.
- Finally picking up the badge with my name on it after using a blank one for the first three days of the fair. (D’oh!)
- Listening to Kurt Klaus make the most sensible statements out of everyone during the millennial forum
- Meeting a few of my journalist colleagues for the first time after having been connected on social media for quite a while (special shouts out to Robert-Jan and Jason).
- “Watch your step.”
- The ink-infused moments in the corner of the VC cocktail party with Christian, Kristian, and Marc André.
- Interviewing everyone I was able to for my “Classic or Contemporary” post on Watchonista.
- Hanging with Carlos Torres (because that will always make my list for any fair, anywhere).
- Getting a media badge for François-Paul only to have him attach it to his head.
- Did I mention Charris?
A very special thank you to Melika, Jihane, Shruti, Wasen, Hind, and everyone at Ahmed Seddiqi & Sons who made my first visit to Dubai and Dubai Watch Week one I’ll never forget. I know that the fair won’t be held again until 2020, but I implore you, never let the energy of this magnificent event fade away. It is needed. It is wanted. It is unlike anything else in the world. And you all should be very, very proud of your hard work.
(Images provided by Dubai Watch Week.)
There once was a girl named Flores Delores whose hair was as red as merlot.
Flores Delores had a mother named Doris who loved to read works by Thoreau.
Her father, Fitzmorris (who sang in the chorus), had a funny obsession with time.
But Flores Delores (her sign being Taurus) despised being second in line.
Whenever Fitzmorris would speak to dear Flores, her eyes would roll back in her head.
“Father, don’t bore us with tales of your Oris. Your watch talk; it fills me with dread.”
“But Flores, this isn’t just any old Oris,” Fitzmorris did state to his child.
“This is the new DATE Oris Chronoris!” Quipped Fitz, who then suddenly smiled.
Flores Delores was annoyed by this Oris and wanted it gone from her life.
Her father’s fixation with his newest Chronoris had even frustrated his wife.
“Mother, this Oris makes father ignore us. The watch must immediately go.
He used to adore us but now his Chronoris receives all the love he can show.”
“Child, he’d implore us to not touch his Chronoris. I suggest that you show some respect.
His feelings are porous; just talk to Fitzmorris, as that is what he would expect.”
But Flores Delores knew the Chronoris needed to soon disappear.
So, she called her friend Boris and her other friend Horace to help her get rid of the gear.
Boris and Horace and Flores had waited ‘til Fitz was asleep in his chair.
They then snuck in the door and crept over the floor before noticing his wrist was bare.
The three whispered in chorus, “Where’s the Oris Chronoris?” before Flores had noticed the book.
There ‘twas positioned on Thoreau’s 2nd edition, making Flores say, “There it is! Look!”
Horace then swiped the new Oris Chronoris and the three of them ran toward outside.
“What now?” questioned Boris, who was looking at Flores, “That’s what you’ll need to decide.”
Young Flores was thinking as her eyes stared blinking and decided right there on the spot.
“Let’s bury it quickly before old Mr. Hickley sees that in school, we are not.”
So, Horace and Boris dug a hole near some laurus but made sure the watch went unhurt.
“Good riddance” said Flores to the Oris Chronoris which was now buried deep in the dirt.
Later, Fitzmorris (now missing his Oris) asked Flores if she’d seen it around.
“No, father” lied Flores knowing full well his Oris was three feet below in the ground.
“That’s so sad” said Fitzmorris as he thought of his Oris and shook his head slowly in vain.
“But father, don’t fear, for I am right here. This isn’t a loss, but a gain.”
“Sweet Flores Delores, you are quite the Taurus; stubborn, and strong like a bull.
For my dear, ‘twas that watch that allowed me to catch the moments I could, but in full.”
“When you had taken ill, I could give you your pill; the Chronoris reminded me to.
When your birthday was near, it was that watch, my dear, that helped me to celebrate you.”
“At night while you’re sleeping I’m often found weeping because time is the thing I can’t stop.
I’m reminded routinely and almost obscenely that one day, you won’t have your pop.”
“So, you see, my dear Flores, it wasn’t the Oris that took me away from your heart.
It is time that is fleeting, though death we are cheating, as long as we’re nary apart.”
“No watch could replace your beautiful face, and no timepiece could make me forget,
that you are reason the Earth changes seasons and on that I’d easily bet.”
That’s when Flores Delores had thought of the Oris that was ticking away below ground.
“Father, I hid it. I wanted to rid it; to have it no longer around.”
So, Flores Delores and her father Fitzmorris walked to the woods in the dark.
Then Flores Delores dug up the Chronoris and handed it back without mark.
Her eyes filled with tears, she seemed old for her years as she shamefully lowered her head.
“Daughter,” said Fitz as her chin he did lift, “it is time that I tucked you in bed.”
Under the cover as her father did hover, young Flores Delores had gone.
Head to her pillow, while the wind whipped the willow, she asked if he’d sing her a song.
“It is late, you are weary, the night skies are quite dreary, so a song, my dear Flores, must wait.
When you wake, on the dime, I will give you my time; as that is the gift you find great.”
“From now on, without question, I will set this possession to remind me each hour to say,
That the love for my Flores far surpasses my Oris, and that love grows with each passing day.”
“Now, here is your Teddy. Lights out, so be ready, and remember this quick little rhyme:
My daughter, my sweet, close your eyes, get some sleep, and tomorrow, let’s do all to stop time.”
*This piece is dedicated to a good friend and dear neighbor, Denis Gainty, who left us suddenly this week at the young age of 46. Denis, we will miss your presence in our lives. If there’s one thing I know, it’s that it certainly was not your time.
After reading a recent article on the Watchuseek website titled, “7 Must-Have Items This Watchuseek Editor Packs for Baselworld” I realized just how few of these pieces were written for or by someone like me (you know, someone with girlie parts and built-in baby feeders), even though there are a shit-ton of us womenfolk who attend Baselworld, largely at our own expense. That’s when I decided it was time to speak up and throw down as it pertains to how just how much more crap we gals need to take to Switzerland in comparison with you guys. I probably could have included twenty more items but I don’t get paid for this blog so why in the hell would I, amiright ladies? Anyway, here are the ten things you’ll find in my suitcase once you move that dead body clothes steamer out of the way.
High Heels (an entire suitcase full)
While some of my female colleagues (and haters) might bark, scoff, roll their eyes, or harrumph at this “essential,” it has been proven time and time again that the taller you are, the more money you make. Most recently, a 2016 study published in the British Medical Journal showed that “High BMI and short stature, as estimated by genetics, are casually related to lower socioeconomic status”, and while high heels aren’t genetically applied (but rather, vainly worn), they most definitely help a person appear larger in life than they are. At 5’9.5” in stocking feet, it’s clear to say that I’m pretty tall as it is even without the heels, but there will be nothing more satisfying to me this week than standing at the Hublot booth during their press conference and being able to clearly see Martin Gore of Depeche Mode as I look over the tops of the many male heads (and beards. And glasses.) in front of me.
ERMAGERD! YOU MEAN GIRLS USE THESE, TOO? Damn right we f*cking use these, and we didn’t pick ours up from Marshall’s, either. But the one I’m taking with me this year holds a very special meaning. I just so happen live in one of the best suburbs in the United States as named by several prominent news publications: Decatur, GA. What makes Decatur so great? Well, for one thing, it’s chill AF. It also happens to be home to many of the doctors and educators at Emory University, Agnes Scott College, the CDC, and more. It has the best public school system in the state of Georgia and holds one of the country’s largest book fairs. It’s a blue city that’s smart, creative, and artistic, despite the fact that it’s surrounded by the original characters of Deliverance. Clearly I’m being hyperbolic but the reality is, Decatur is awesome, and part of what makes it so cool is a jewelry store by the name of Worthmore.
Worthmore has two locations – Decatur, and also Midtown – and they have never followed the crowd when it comes to what a traditional jewelry store is supposed to look and act like. Their staff is fun and friendly, and they do their research as it pertains to the jewelry they carry and the watches they offer. This week as I stopped into get a battery on an old Seiko changed, Harris and Leslie welcomed me with open arms and gifted me with a gorgeous leather watch roll created by local designer, Jenae Roseen. I took it home and quickly filled it with the watches I’d be taking with me. Thanks, y’all!
Take it from a woman who can’t run a Power Point presentation during a seminar without accidentally throwing the clicker across the room and smashing it to bits: a backup phone is necessary. But besides the fact that I will likely somehow shatter the screen on my primary mobile phone (and have in the past because FML), a backup phone is a good way to take and store video for post-show social media without having to use the storage space on your everyday device – that is, if you’re a poor freelance writer like I am who can’t afford to hire an entire team of Swiss guys to follow me around and shoot video… of watches, pervs.
Sixty Swiss Francs
BECAUSE YOU WON’T GET A LOCKER IF YOU DON’T HAVE CASH. THIS, I KNOW.
Framed Picture of You and Your Watch Crush
You know you have a watch crush and you know you have that one picture ever taken of the two of you that you secretly stuff in your carry on (you wouldn’t dare dream of putting it in a checked bag for fear of being caught) so that the first thing you do when you arrive in your shitty Air BnB magnificent hotel room is place it on the cardboard box next to the cot night stand. (((Cough))) (((Charris))) (((Cough)))
Printed Copy of Your Appointment Schedule
I don’t care how reliable you believe technology to be, nothing will ever take the place of a good old-fashioned, color-coded, printed excel spreadsheet just in case that primary phone we talked about above (including the calendar app you use) happens to get thrown into the Rhine during a particularly raucous departure from Les Trois Rois that may or may not involve a bagpiper, fake blood, and/or your friend Sophy.
This is the Swiss we’re talking about, and if you don’t know, the Swiss kiss three times, so those lips are going to be put to more use than they were during the summer of your tenth grade year when you first started playing, “Spin the Bottle” and Jimmy McMaster figured out how to get it to land on you every. G*d. Damned. Time. I personally wear Yves Saint Laurent’s lip stain but the L’oreal versions work pretty well, too.
Phone chargers, portable chargers, camera chargers, the San Diego Chargers, TAKE THEM ALL, PEOPLE, ‘cause you’re gonna need ‘em.
A Single Hermes Scarf
You could be wearing a suit you found in the back of your storage unit that you purchased from a thrift store when a Bush was president (pick one… doesn’t matter which) and you’ll still look like a million francs as long as you’re adorned in something Hermes. I always go with a scarf because it can double as a pocket square or triple as a hair tie, plus the folks in the Hermes booth told me how much they appreciate the free advertising. Maybe. They said it in French so it was either that or they asked me for directions to the nearest Starbucks.
Your Ability to Not Take Yourself So Seriously
Look, we all get that watches are serious business, okay? We get it. They’re expensive, they take time – sometimes years – to develop and manufacture properly, and they’ll last you and your offspring generations if you service and take care of them in the appropriate way, but just because something fits the above standards doesn’t mean that it can’t be fun, too. And just because someone is Swiss doesn’t mean they can’t laugh. I know. I’ve seen it happen at least once or twice. So remember to allow yourself moments of lightheartedness as you dress in your Europeanesque best and walk miles per day through the grandeur that is Baselworld, because any world that can’t also be poked fun at isn’t a world any of us should want to be a part of.
I remember the pain like it was yesterday.
My parents took me on a rare weekend trip to the Chesapeake Bay area. I was about eight years old and didn’t yet know how to swim, but liked walking along the beach with my legs in the water up to about my knee. My folks did their very best to teach me the art of being nervous; they weren’t what you’d call, a “daring” bunch. Still aren’t, really. They won’t get on an airplane. Won’t go out for sushi. To them I’m somewhat of a mystery, or at the very least, an anomaly. But on this late summer day along the Mid-Virginia coast, they were fine with my exploring the sunset sea and all the beauty that accompanied it.
Until, of course, they heard the scream.
My mother wasn’t exactly the most athletic person I’d ever known, but as I sat in the wet sand of the outgoing tide, holding my now bright purplish-red shin, I saw her headed toward me like she was Flo-Jo circa 1988. I was wailing in pain and it was the first time as a child I remember having an in-depth conversation with my psyche:
8-year-old Me: “WAAAAAAAAAAAA!!!!!!! WHAT THE HELL???!!! OH MY GOD I’M GOING TO DIE!!! SHARK!!! I’VE BEEN BITTEN BY A SHARK! OR A WHALE!”
8-year-old Psyche: “Could you be a little more dramatic, please? I hear Little House on the Prairie is holding auditions nearby. And most whales don’t bite, moron.”
8YO Me: “And with this, your struggle with empathy begins. HELLO!?! Have you seen my LEG? They’re going to have to amputate it! Not a doubt in my mind. I am not even nine and I’m going to be legless. OH MY GOD THEY’RE GOING TO CALL ME LEGOLAS AT SCHOOL. I knew we were too young to start reading The Hobbit.”
8YO Psyche: “Okay, okay, back it up a minute, sister. First of all, before we get into what actually happened to you, let me just say… well done on the use of your vocabulary words! I mean, empathy and amputate in the same breath? Good job, kid. You might just be a writer someday. Your teacher must be very proud.”
8YO Me: “Hey, thanks. Yeah, Dad made me write a few pages in the dictionary as punishment for forgetting to make my bed again. Good to know it’s sinking in.”
8YO Psyche: “He’s creative with the punishments, I’ll give him that. So, back to what exactly happened… you were stung by a jellyfish, dipsh*t. Not a shark. Or a whale. Or a turtle. Or a crab. Or an oyster. It was a jellyfish. You’ll survive, I promise.”
And while that may have been the last time I would listen to my psyche for decades, it was right; I did survive, and without amputation, but my childhood fear of the jellyfish’s sting stayed with me the rest of my life…
… that is, until now.
If there’s one thing the watch world continuously awaits, it’s whatever Maximilian Büsser and his friends think of next. Speaking for myself, I feel my pulse quicken whenever an email comes through from Charris Yadigaroglou – MB&F’s Chief Communications Officer – and not just because everything about him is cool (including his font choice. How is that even possible?). An email from Charris means that something new, quirky, abstract, or extraordinary is either coming from MB&F or has already arrived, so when the teaser message came through about the release of the MB&F HM7 at the upcoming SIHH, I prepped my camera and held my breath, which was a good thing, because the company decided to take us all for a swim.
Press presentation videos can sometimes be – to put it politely – drab. Throw in a darkened, uncomfortably warm room and some jet lag and one might find oneself struggling to stay awake through them. But as I looked around at my American colleagues while they watched the beginning of the HM7 movie, I could plainly see that there was nary a sleeper in sight, in spite of Charris’s newfound raspy voice, thanks to a severe sore throat likely caused by (but not limited to) recycled expedition hall air conditioning.
The movie took us through the stages of MB&F’s story – of Max’s story – and put us all in touch with our inner curious and youthful selves. It started out by reminding us of our obsession with outer space through the creation of the HM2, HM3, and HM6 Horological Machines. It then carried us on the wings of an airplane through the skies of imagination via the HM4. Once landed, however, it threw us into the passenger seats of the HM5, HM8, and HMX models and drove us fast and far to the shores of our childhood – and in my case, to that beach on the Chesapeake Bay – so that we could strap on our tanks and dive deep into a realm not yet explored in the microcosm of highly mechanical timekeeping; the water.
The HM7 Aquapod (as it is so appropriately named) draws its design inspiration from the jellyfish, and symmetry is key when comparing the timepiece to its sea creature muse. The Aquapod is equipped with radially symmetric rings displaying the hours and minutes as a nod to the jellyfish’s brain, which is made up of an evenly spaced circle of neurons (MB&F had to develop extra-large ceramic ball bearings to support the watch’s spherical hour and minute displays). The watch’s sapphire crystal “bell” houses a flying tourbillon which regulates the power generated by the tentacle-like automatic winding rotor, transforming it into its time display. That prominent flying tourbillon makes for a beautiful visualization by day, however the three panels of AGT Ultra Lume (originally seen in the HMX Black Badger) around the inside of the movement give the watch its jellyfish-like bluish glow at night. But it’s what the rotor’s tentacles are made of and how they are made that adds another level of complexity to this already extravagant yet whimsical wrist machine. Each rotor is crafted from a solid block of Grade 5 titanium which – as any metalsmith knows – is extremely difficult both to work with and to polish evenly and properly, but it’s that same characteristic that adds to the timepiece’s nearly light-as-a-sea-cucumber feel.
The Aquapod’s “floating” curved bezel is created with laser-etched ceramic filled with metalized titanium at the numerals and markers. The watch – which IS NOT a dive watch – is water resistant to 50 meters, has a 72-hour power reserve, two crowns, and an automatic winding movement conceived and developed in-house by MB&F. The engine comprises 303 total components and 35 jewels, and its strap is made in aircraft-grade Fluorocarbon FKM 70 Shore A elastomer with a buckle that matches the material of the case. The HM7 is being issued in 18K rose gold in a limited edition 66 pieces, or in Grade 5 titanium in a limited edition of 33 pieces, and before we had left the press conference there were already two pieces sold.
To say that I, once again, was amazed by a horological creation conceptualized by Maximilian Büsser is like saying that I was going to have three glasses a glass of Champagne with my carpaccio every day during the SIHH lunch. In other words, YA THINK?? But then to see Max’s concept designed by the wonderfully talented Eric Giroud, and brought to life by a team of his extraordinary “friends” is something I don’t think I’ll ever tire of as long as I find myself writing about watches. And to know that Max – just like I – had been stung by a jellyfish while on family holiday many, many years ago makes me give one of those “of course he was” chuckles, for it takes someone with a mind like Max Büsser to turn that potentially horrifying childhood experience into a positive and creative one, (whereas I, in turn, simply avoided going into the ocean pretty much ever again).
So thank you, my dear Max Büsser, and thank you to your friends. Thanks for making me have to recount a terrifying memory and face my fears so that I could appreciate the natural joys of sea life again. That doesn’t mean I’m going to go diving anytime soon, mind you, but it does mean that I might just take a trip to the aquarium more often now. And maybe I’ll find myself hanging around the jellyfish tank. Who knows… it might just be good for my soul to spend a little extra time there.
“One bottled water, please.”
“Oui, Madam. With gas or without?”
“With, s’il vous plaît.”
My first experience with the European carbonation situation was on a trip to Italy and Switzerland in 2003. In American eateries, tap water is largely served with meals and no one questions or thinks twice about it. In finer restaurants, the server may very well try to upsell you the twenty-dollar table bottle of San Pellegrino so that you’ll feel fancier while simultaneously becoming poorer, but overall, the U.S. likes their still/flat/tap water just fine, thank you very much. However, it took sitting at a café in Lugano for me to realize that other parts of the world do it differently. That is where, on a sunny April afternoon just two days after my thirtieth birthday, I was first offered the option of either aqua gassata (carbonated) or aqua naturale (non-carbonated) water, and that is when I truly understood how much Europeans – and particularly the Swiss – value food, drink, outward appearance, and tradition so much more than we Yanks. Even now, nearly fourteen years later, as I peregrinate to cities like Geneva, Switzerland and to events such as the Salon International De La Haute Horlogerie (where timepieces are clearly focal), that evaluation becomes clearer – flawless even – not unlike many of the diamonds used in the extraordinary watches those same cities put forth to the world.
Carbon was an element mentioned in a few of the press presentations being held at this year’s SIHH. NTPT Carbon is a signature feature in a couple of Richard Mille’s collections (both for men and now women) and Roger Dubuis introduced their Excalibur Spider Carbon watch, which received high accolades from both press and collectors alike. But it was the watches made with the natural, concentrated form of pure carbon that I found myself most enamored with; ones decorated with that metastable allotrope of carbon in which atoms are arranged while in the Earth (or, more recently, a lab) in the form of cubic crystals. In other words: diamonds. I was, after all, born an April baby.
The value of diamonds can be traced back to centuries before Christ when talks of trading the gem in India were scribed in the Arthashastra of Kautilya, and mentions of Golconda serving as a trading center for the gemstone were written in 3rd century descriptions (according to Wiki, that is). Diamonds today are still the number one choice for engagement rings worldwide, largely due to the belief that they symbolize strength, transparency, wealth, and eternity. And it has been said that the first modern form of wristwatch created (by Patek Philippe in 1868 for the Countess Koscowicz of Hungary) was an ornate diamond-accented piece originally intended to be a form of decorative jewelry. Now while this little history lesson may do nothing but make you double-check the website URL to confirm you didn’t click on a link for your local PBS station, it is meant to be a prologue to the three exemplary diamond timepieces for women that were introduced to me in Geneva, and that I’m about to describe to you below.
Panthère de Cartier
This year’s SIHH saw a relaunch of Cartier’s famed Panthère collection watches (originally launched in 1983) and my inner Alexis Carrington Colby went reaching for a crystal flute filled with Veuve Clicquot, for several celebratory reasons. First (and most important), because Cartier made very clear that they would be putting a lot of emphasis on women’s watches in 2017, which, if you’re a woman like I who has been vocal about how some of the brands are missing an opportunity to market to the female self-purchaser, makes you feel like the watch world has been listening to the chatter. Second, because the Panthère de Cartier is an iconic watch that spans eras as well as genres and because you don’t have to take out a second mortgage on your home in order to buy one for yourself (the small version [sans diamonds] in stainless steel retails for $4,000 USD). And finally, because Cartier is offering the medium version of the watch in 18K white gold, embellished almost entirely with round brilliant cut diamonds and black enamel “spots.” Trust me when I tell you that this model is not just feline… it is fabulous, fun, and downright feminine.
The bracelet of the Panthère – the feature that originally attributed to the watch’s name – still moves and flows with the same slinky ease and elegance as it did when first introduced in the eighties. And as of this June, the series will be released not just in the diamond and enamel version pictured here, but also in yellow gold, white gold, two-tone, and stainless steel, with diamonds or without, in both small and medium sizes. If you want my advice though, go with a diamond version when it comes time to make your selection. The ghost of Cally Harper Ewing will be sorely disappointed if you don’t.
Emerald Cadenas Watch by Van Cleef & Arpels
When I stepped foot into the main hall at my first ever SIHH I knew I would leave the event a changed writer, but what I wasn’t expecting when I entered the booth at Van Cleef & Arpels was to leave that press conference a changed person. With twenty-one years in the fine jewelry industry under my belt I’m proud to say that I’m still not jaded; the craftsmanship, creativity, and soul that goes into making an extraordinary piece (be it jewel, watch, or otherwise) still moves me from within and can – at times – bring me to the brink of tears. As I sat under an augmented reality sky with virtual butterflies fluttering above my head, I watched a movie about the making of the Automate Fée Ondine; Van Cleef & Arpels’ first Extraordinary Object. The project – a collaboration between the Maison, automaton maker François Junod, and numerous craftsmen – depicts a fairy perched upon a lily pad who awakens from her sleep as the petals of the adjacent flower open to greet her. The animation of the various elements of the mechanism (which oh, by the way, also tells time) were fluid in movement and the characters in the form of the fairy and the nature surrounding her were realistically portrayed, even though they were made up of metals, gears, precious gemstones, and enamel. It was unlike any time-telling creation I’d ever set my eyes on, and I knew that if the Maison put this much care into a clock that their watches would be no less remarkable.
The Cadenas watch was introduced by Van Cleef & Arpels in 1935 as a way for a woman to wear a timepiece in public without being considered inappropriate (I mean, can you even IMAGINE??). “Cadenas” means “lock” in French and the collection has been a permanent fixture in the company’s watch line since its inception. For 2017, however, the Maison added to the Cadenas collection by introducing two new versions: one in pink gold with rubies; and a stunning white gold piece (pictured here) set with brilliant cut diamonds and perfectly matched, vivid green Princess cut emeralds. This was easily one of my favorite diamond watches of the 2017 SIHH and one I’m quickly adding to my ever-growing, “what I’m buying when the kids go off to college” wish list.
Diamond Outrage by Audemars Piguet
If the Panthère de Cartier brought you back to a time when shoulder pads were queen and you wore your nicest silk blouse to fight your mortal enemies in a pool, then this next watch will have you longing for the days of slam dancing, broken-in Doc Martens, and Tuesday nights at CBGB.
The Diamond Outrage by Audemars Piguet is the third and final installment in the brand’s Haute Joaillerie Diamond cuff watch trilogy for women, and in this writer’s opinion, AP saved its fiercest for last. Embellished in 9,923 “snow set” round brilliant cut diamonds totaling just over 50 carats, and 354 invisible set baguette diamonds totaling roughly 15.85 carats, the watch is a stunning example of jewelry craftsmanship and intricate gemstone setting techniques. Described during the press conference as being an “explosion of stalactites on the wrist,” the watch very well could double as a form of defense should the wearer find herself in a situation where the mosh pit is getting just a little too out of control. And while the Outrage may not tickle every watch wearer’s fancy, there is no denying the looks of amazement on the faces of those I saw feast their eyes on the watch in person. It was awesome, in the truest sense of the word, and I doubt there is anything else like it in the world.
There is no shortage of tag lines, clichés, and marketing mantras to describe a diamond’s importance as it pertains to luxury, and in my humble opinion, not every watch – more specifically, not every ladies’ watch – needs to be decorated with diamonds in order to make it more appealing to a female audience. But for the three watches above, diamonds – very simply – work. And when something works, there’s no reason to meddle with it.
Thanks so much for reading and more coverage to come soon from the 2017 SIHH in Geneva.